Black Hills State University

About Us

The SD CEO, Women's Business Center, provides comprehensive training, education and business assistance, support and counseling for aspiring and established entrepreneurs to foster economic development in South Dakota. 

2013 SBA Region VIII Women's Business Center of Excellence Award and 2013 SBA District Office Women's Business Center of Excellence - In Recognition of Exemplary Achievement and Innovation!

Vision Statement: SD CEO will facilitate opportunities to acquire the knowledge, skills and resources necessary to support, nurture and advocate the development of prosperous businesses.

Special areas of focus:

  • Training- developing, providing and/or recommending training, seminars and workshops to meet the needs of startup and existing businesses.
  • Counseling- facilitating how SBA might best serve client needs and encourage the best direction in pursuit of a successful business.
  • Technical Assistance- identifying resources for comprehensive training, mentoring and counseling to help entrepreneurs reach business goals.

While services are available to ANYONE interested in business, the center has a special emphasis on:

  • Women
  • Native Americans
  • Socially disadvantaged
  • Youth entrepreneurs
  • Women veterans

 What our clients are saying about us:

"I like the hands-on approach with the program."

"I learned a great deal that I can put into practice in my business."

"The presenter was excellent; very knowledgeable and helpful."

"Fabulous class- I would sit through it again!"

SD CEO Staff Members

Helen Nessan-Merriman, Executive Director


Ms. Helen Merriman has served as the founding director of the SD CEO, the only women’s business center in South Dakota, since its opening in November 2009.  SD CEO is housed under the School of Business and Natural Sciences and is located on the campus of Black Hills State University (BHSU) in Spearfish, South Dakota. Their mission is to provide comprehensive business assistance, education, counseling and training from startup to expansion and to foster economic and workforce development in South Dakota. Participation has grown from 425 participants to over 1400, in 50 counties statewide. She has developed many programs to help  women realize their full leadership potential including the annual Celebrating Women in Business Luncheon and Awards, the annual Women’s Business Conference and a monthly Women in Networking event. Helen was instrumental in the creation of the Women in Leadership Focusing on the Future educational curriculum/program funded by Coeur Wharf gold and silver mine and is now in its fourth year with 100 graduates to date. Additionally, she was an invited participant at the 2015 National Security Forum at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama and has served as an Honorary Commander for the Ellsworth Air Force Base 28th Contracting Squadron. Helen and SD CEO were awarded the 2013 SBA Region VIII Women's Business Center of Excellence Award. She is a member of the Rapid City Women’s Network. In 2001, Helen and her husband Roger sold their commercial printing and publishing business in Pierre that they had operated for 24 years. Owning their own business gave her the valuable experience of a "startup business" to the selling of a successful business with 40 employees. Prior to joining SD CEO, Helen served as communications and development director for Catholic Social Services. She also has experience as a sales manager for two regional publications, as a coordinator of social services for a long-term care facility and in leading both non-profit and for-profit entities. Helen is originally from the Sioux Falls area and earned a bachelor’s degree from Northern State University. She currently lives in Spearfish with her husband, has two adult step children, six grandchildren, and two great grandsons.


Andrea Bakeberg, Assistant Director


Andrea joined SDCEO in May 2015. She graduated from Black Hills State University in 2012 as the highest ranking female graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing. Andrea received her MBA in Applied Management from BHSU in May 2016, and she serves as the secretary for the Zonta Club of Spearfish. As of 2017, Andrea has joined the Board of Directors for the Matthews Opera House in Spearfish, SD. Before coming to the SD CEO office, Andrea served as the Program Assistant for the College of Business and Natural Sciences at BHSU. In her role as Assistant Director, she manages the SD CEO financials and assists with the planning, registration, and coordination of all SD CEO events and training.

Andrea grew up in Rapid City and currently lives in Spearfish with her husband Aric.

Mela Cosme, Senior Secretary


Mela is the newest member of our team, joining us in October of 2016, a week prior to our Women’s Business Conference. Mela graduated from Black Hills State University in December of 2013 with a Bachelor in Corporate Communications and a Bachelor in Mass Communications with an emphasis in  Photography and Graphic Design.  Before joining our team, Mela was the copy editor,photographer, and social media coordinator for Maverick Publishing. She volunteers her time as a Girl Scout Troop Leader where she works and leads 7th graders to high school girls.  In her role as Senior Secretary, Mela manages all of our marketing and office administrative duties and assist with the planning and coordination of all SD CEO events and trainings.  

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Mela currently lives in Spearfish and is fond of the local community and the outdoors. In the winter, you may find her at our local ski resort where she is an AASI Level II Certified Snowboard Instructor.